Saturday

17th Nov 2018

Swedes warned of EU collapse ahead of vote

  • "If we don't do it together, then we don't do it at all," said Bildt (Photo: Council of European Union)

The EU would "collapse" if parties like the far-right Sweden Democrats took power across Europe, Sweden's former conservative prime minister, Carl Bildt, said in a TV duel on Sunday (2 September).

Bildt's warning came in the first big debate to tackle EU affairs ahead of Swedish elections next weekend, where the Sweden Democrats, which has called for an in/out EU referendum, is polling to win one in five votes.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Akesson: "Is the EU ... a left-liberal project?" (Photo: News Oresund)

"To leave the EU is by far the most dangerous proposal discussed in this election because it would weaken Sweden and create greater uncertainty," Bildt said.

Most TV debates had so far focused on migration and social issues, but Sunday's duel, on the SVT channel, saw Bildt, a federalist, slug it out with Sweden Democrats leader Jimmy Akesson on his EU policy.

Sweden Democrats wanted "co-operation in Europe on trade", while rejecting the EU of today, in which "other member states' politicians and bureaucrats decide the lawmaking [in Sweden]," Akesson said.

If democracy put Sweden Democrats and others like them in control, that would mean the EU had lost legitimacy for all but Europe's elites, he added.

"Let's imagine my party takes power in Sweden, Le Pen takes power in France, in the Netherlands a similar party, in Italy, and then we take Hungary and so forth, are you still going to say that the EU is a good thing? Or is the EU for you first of all a left-liberal project?" Akesson asked Bildt, referring to French far-right leader Marie Le Pen.

That would spell the end of the European Union, Bildt replied.

"Should what you have outlined here happen, European cooperation is going to collapse and Europe would become a pawn in a game of the superpowers," Bildt said, alluding to China, Russia, and the US.

EU collapse would lead to "economic storms", an even worse "refugee crisis", and a rise in criminality, he added.

"Friends" of Sweden Democrats, such as nationalist parties in Hungary and Poland, had already made the refugee crisis worse by blocking EU efforts to share the burden more fairly, Bildt noted.

"We need more police co-operation, much more common foreign policy to prevent crises, such as the one in Syria, but all this is being prevented by forces in Europe .... similar to the Sweden Democrats," Bildt said.

But that type of thinking showed disrespect to voters, Akesson replied.

"So you say the EU can only cooperate properly as long as it is controlled by the 'correct' type of politicians, but when the 'wrong' politicians take over, then the EU doesn't function anymore?," he said.

Brexit clash

The two men also disagreed on Brexit.

"The EU elite is making an example [of the UK] and punishing the only country that has ever dared to exit," Akesson said.

Bildt said Britain was punishing itself by choosing to leave and by having no idea how to do it.

"They [the UK] are realising only now how important the EU is for their economy, for food, medicines, aviation, and other areas that were agreed at the European level," Bildt said.

He admitted the EU had a popularity crisis, but he said that a stronger Europe, with a joint military and with strong border controls, which was capable of standing up to people like Russian leader Vladimir Putin or Syria's Bashar al-Assad, was the best way to regain people's trust.

"Europe strengthens the nation state's ability to act in the world", Bildt said, naming climate change, refugees, and Putin as its main challenges.

"If we don't do it together, then we don't do it at all", he said.

"I want a different kind of cooperation in Europe - which does not threaten the nation state the way it does today", Akesson replied.

EU-wide conflict

The Bildt-Akesson debate came shortly after Hungary's populist leader, Viktor Orban, met Italy's far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, in Milan.

Both events invoked the idea of a pan-EU conflict between two axes - pro-European liberals vs. eurosceptic nationalists - to be played out in the European Parliament elections next year.

"There are two sides at the moment in Europe. One is led by Macron, who supports migration. The other one is supported by countries who want to protect their borders," Orban said, referring to French president Emmanuel Macron.

Orban declared that he would form a league with Salvini and other like-minded politicians in the EU vote next May.

"It's clear that today a strong opposition is building up between nationalists and progressives," Macron said afterward.

"If they wanted to see me as their main opponent, they were right to do so," he said.

"I have one thing to say to them: bring it on," Swedish centre-left politician Margot Wallstroem also said at the time.

Leading from behind

With six days to go before Sweden votes on Sunday (9 September), the centre-left Social Democrats party of prime minister Stefan Loefven is poised to come top with 24 percent.

But Akesson's Sweden Democrats are tipped to come second, with 20 percent, beating Bildt's party, the centre-right Moderaterne (17%) into third place.

Everybody has rejected the idea of forming a coalition with Akesson for the sake of political hygiene.

One possible outcome is that a centre-left bloc, led by the Social Democrats and containing the Left party and the Green Party, would form a government instead.

Another outcome is that a centre-right bloc, containing four parties, would put Moderaterne's leader, Ulf Kristersson, in power.

Both models would create minority governments that would leave Akesson in a powerful position, however.

The centre-left bloc would have 41 percent of votes, while the centre right one would have 36 percent, according to a Scop poll published on 31 August.

A similar situation in neighbouring Denmark has given the Danish People's Party huge influence on domestic politics for the past decade.

The party - an official "friend" of the Sweden Democrats - has stayed outside government, but Denmark's centre-right rulers have governed at its mercy all the same.

Opinion

'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections

Swedes head to the polls in September in a national parliamentary election, while Bavarians vote in October in a state election. In both elections, voters' nativist sentiments may well help determine the outcome.

Interview

New book: Why war is coming

War is the likely outcome of current geopolitical trends - the decline of democracy and rise of authoritarian nationalism - says Belgian writer Koert Debeuf in his new book 'Tribalisation', to be launched in New York this week.

Overseas votes could swing Sweden election result

Sweden heads for a hung parliament after Sunday's election, which saw support for the nationalist Sweden Democrats surge. With just 30,000 votes between the two blocs, votes cast abroad to be counted on Wednesday could still make the difference.

News in Brief

  1. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  2. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  3. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  4. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  5. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  6. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  7. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  8. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May

Opinion

'The kids aren't alt-right'

Steve Bannon's demolition derby is behind the curve of EU politics, writes Dutch liberal MEP Sophie in 't Veld.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  2. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  3. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  4. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  5. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  6. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  7. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  8. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  3. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  5. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  6. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  8. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  9. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  10. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  11. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us